She Can’t Stand Her Brother’s Girlfriend

Dear Vicki: My twin brother Peter and I were very close growing up, but he went to college out of state and never moved back home. We’re 23 now and he’s hinted about getting engaged to Jessie, a girl he met while a student in college. She, however, was not a student – she is six years older than we are and was a waitress when they met. He’s clearly in love and has their whole life planned out, but the few times I’ve met her have given me grave concerns regarding their potential life together. Peter’s a serious guy, a real homebody, who works for an animal rescue service in the town where he and Jessie live. She is still a waitress, but apparently likes to go out with friends when she gets off work and sometimes doesn’t get home to Peter until after midnight, which is so not right. How is this going to be any kind of a marriage? He’s talking about children with her, too, but what party girl makes a good mother? That’s not the way things are supposed to be, but Peter defends Jessie no matter what I say. It’s absurd! I’m too busy with my job as a programmer to go try to talk some sense into him again, but what can I do? Signed: Disgusted in Detroit

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Dear Disgusted: Bless you for wanting what’s best for your brother. As twins, it was probably very hard for you when he went away to college; twins are used to being and staying close. It’s also probably hard that Peter has chosen not to move back home and is, apparently, creating a new home with Jessie. Clearly, this is not what you think should be happening and that’s understandable. However, from a Five Elements perspective, it is also understandable that Peter would be attracted to Jessie, that Jessie would be attracted to Peter, and that you would have problems with their relationship. So let’s see what we can to do help you understand what is going on.

To use the Five Elements model to help sort of the relationship issues between you, Peter, and Jessie, we need a sense of the primary elemental personalities for the three of you. Your upset that Peter hasn’t done things the way you think they’re “supposed to be,” along with your job as a programmer, suggests that you likely have a primary Metal personality. Metal people work well with detail and have the focus and thoroughness necessary to be a good programmer. They also expect life to follow a prescribed pattern and unfold in an orderly fashion. When that doesn’t occur, they can easily become upset and sometimes judgmental.

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Where They Meet Will Make a Difference

Dear Vicki: I’m in my mid-20s and live by myself in Manhattan where I work as a legal advocate for a refugee organization. My mother recently informed me that my cousin (her sister’s son who’s around my age) will be moving here to take a job as a trial attorney. Mom asked if I would help James find a place, get settled, and meet people. I understand that he is family, but since we were children, I’ve never really liked James. He always seemed like a wild, pushy, “my way or the highway” kind of guy. Looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed his company; he’s exhausting to be around. There’s no way out of it though, so do you have any recommendations regarding what I can do to stand him for however long it takes to get him settled? Signed: Cornered in Manhattan

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Dear Cornered: Ah, the things we are called to do in the name of family. I agree that you probably are stuck with helping your cousin get settled in the big city. And while you will probably never really enjoy James, there are ways to manage your interactions with him to make things less painful. That said, the first step is for you to understand why he exhausts you and rubs you the wrong way. Of course, I think it has everything to do with your elemental personalities.

It’s interesting that you and James are both attorneys. One might expect that a shared profession would make relating to each other easier, but given the type of law you each practice, I can understand why that hasn’t happened. You are radically different from each other and the way this has manifested in your career paths offers insight into your elemental personalities.

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Alone Time and Relationship

Dear Vicki: My husband of 15 years and I divorced two years ago. It was his choice and very difficult for me; I crawled into a hole for quite some time. Recently, I’ve started dating a nice fellow I’ll call Tom, but I’m having trouble figuring him out. Sometimes he’s sensitive and caring, and sometimes he’s aloof and distant. When he’s in his caring place, we get along great. But when he’s off on his own, I tend to drift away, too, which I don’t think speaks well for a future together. I do love time alone – I’m an art therapist so enjoy my painting – and Tom is an attorney who spends a great deal of time at work. Do you think we have a chance of making it work? Signed, Can This Work

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Dear Can This Work: First, let me say that I pretty much believe any relationship can “make it” if both parties understand the dynamics of their connection and are willing to work with them. There will be ups and downs, of course, but these can be predicted based on your elemental personalities. Knowing what your personal tendencies are in a relationship will always help build on the ups and smooth over the downs.

It sounds to me like you may have a primary Water personality given your love for art and an appreciation of time alone to paint. Creativity of all kinds sits in the Water element. But the fact that you use your talent to work as a therapist suggests that you also have a strong amount of Earth energy in your personality, too. Earth people love helping others, and they also value home and family. Your concern about being able to “make it work” with Tom speaks to a desire for a long-term relationship, which is also very important to Earth people.

As an attorney, it’s very likely that Tom has a primary Metal personality because it takes an appreciation of detail and hierarchy to practice law. Metal people also require time alone to work, which would explain his tendency to distance himself from you at times. And when Metal people become overworked or tired, they can come off as aloof, so I think it’s a pretty good guess that Tom is a primary Metal personality. However, his sensitivity and caring with you suggests a good amount of Earth energy in his personality, too.  Bottom line: In your relationship with Tom he brings Metal and Earth personality tendencies and you bring Water and Earth personality tendencies.

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She’s Worried About Her Mother’s Anger

Dear Vicki: My mother has always been a strong and loving woman. She is a nurse who managed (and still does) a multi-physician office while my two brothers and I were growing up, but she still had time to bake cookies and help with science projects. When her father died and living alone was too hard on Grammy, Mom moved her in with us. The problem now is that I recently received an amazing offer to teach at a nursing college out of state. I want to accept the offer, but my mother has all of a sudden turned into a mean and angry person. She actually makes snarky comments about my leaving. I know she has a lot going on at work and with Grammy here, and Dad isn’t a lot of help, but this is my chance and now I feel guilty taking it and worried that something really might be wrong with Mom. Can you help? Signed: Worried in Western Oaks

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Dear Worried: Congratulations on the offer from the nursing college. It does seem like a wonderful opportunity for you and it is understandable that you would want to go. It is also understandable that your mother may be less than enthused. Let’s take a look at your likely elemental personalities and see what might be going on for your mother and how you might help.

The fact that your mother was able to run a large office suggests that she probably has a lot of Wood energy in her personality. That she is a nurse and also an excellent mother indicates that she clearly has a lot of Earth energy, too. I suspect that she is a primary Earth personality, but that her secondary Wood has been front and center for most of her adult life. It would take the Wood skills of organization and getting things done to have accomplished all she did while you and your brothers were growing up. It’s a very Earth thing to move her mother in when her father passed, but a very Wood thing to have the stamina to make it all work.

You also seem to be a primary Earth personality given your choice of nursing as a career. I’m sure this greatly pleased your mother and made for an even stronger bond between the two of you. In fact, I suspect this is part of the reason your mother is having such a hard time with the idea of you moving away. Earth people create strong bonds because deep and lasting relationships are one of the great priorities of their lives. And while at a rational level your mother is probably secretly pleased for you to have this opportunity, at a functional level it clearly isn’t going over very well with her.

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Finding True Love

Dear Readers,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In the spirit of the day, I am reposting a letter from last year that really sums up how useful knowledge of the Five Elements can be when looking for true and lasting love. Enjoy!

Vicki

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Dear Vicki: I want to be married and in love, but I’ve been divorced three times. Even though I was so sure I’d found true love with each guy, the relationships didn’t last. My first husband and I married young – we were only 19 – but we were in love and wanted the same thing: a home and family. Or so I thought. He left me for his flashy young secretary who was a better fit as he climbed the corporate ladder. Husband #2, a college professor, left to accept a fellowship to study primitive tribes in Africa. And Husband #3 is an artist who found his muse in the woman who runs a local gallery. They live together in a loft now. I honestly thought each of these men was my true love, a person I could grow old with. But now, at 37, I’m wondering how to find the right guy. All I want is a happy home and family. Signed: Unmarried in Marengo

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Dear Unmarried: It sounds like you’ve had quite an experience relating to different kinds of guys. I’m so sorry your marriages haven’t worked out, but I do think there is a Five Elements explanation as to why. Let’s take a look at your primary elemental personality and the personalities of your three husbands to see what we can learn so that marriage #4, whenever it happens, is a wild success.

Based on your overwhelming desire for a happy home and family, I think it’s safe to say that you are a primary Earth personality. Home and family are very high on their list of priorities. The resiliency you’ve shown and hope you continue to hold out for a lasting marriage suggests that you might have Water as your secondary personality. Bless you on staying positive. But be mindful to keep yourself balanced because too much Earth (desire for a relationship) and Water (trust that everything will be perfect) together can create a lot of mud, which usually lacks clarity and focus. And these are important to have when entering into a relationship. Information about the person and their personality tendencies is important, too, but selecting a life partner isn’t as simple as finding a “positive” elemental match.

The Five Elements model shows us that all of the elements can get along well with each other if they try. This means you can “pick” whomever you fall in love with, but then make sure you take the time to determine their elemental personality so you can understand what their priorities will be in life and relationship. I also suggest that you help them understand what your priorities are as an Earth personality. Too often we tend to trust “love” as being all we need. And while it’s extremely important, I also believe that we need understanding and acceptance if any relationship is to go the distance. So in the name of that understanding, let’s take a look at what might have unfolded at an elemental level in each of your previous marriages.

Based on your letter, it appears that you have been married to a Wood person, a Metal person, and a Water person, in that order. Technically, your first marriage had every chance of working. Even though Earth and Wood relate on the Controlling Cycle, an Earth wife and Wood husband recreate what was considered the “perfect” marriage in the 1950s. The Wood person’s desire for success and accomplishment provided the financial means to support the Earth person’s desire for a home and family. There’s no way to know exactly why your first marriage failed, but perhaps your husband’s secondary personality got in the way. He clearly didn’t have a secondary Earth personality or the two of you would probably still be together. Instead, his desire to climb the corporate ladder and have someone a bit flashier at his side suggests that Fire might have been his secondary. If so, your secondary Water personality would have been problematic for his secondary Fire (Water controls Fire); there were probably times he felt like you rained on his parade. But Earth people value loyalty and he clearly was not able to give you that, so the bottom line is that it wasn’t a good match.

Your second husband was probably a Metal person given his desire to move halfway around the planet all alone to study a chosen topic. Metal people tend to be loners who will go the distance (sometimes literally) in search of knowledge. And even though the two of you related on the Nurturing Cycle (Earth feeds Metal), it was your energy feeding him. I wonder if there were times you felt he drained you. That can sometimes happen with an Earth/Metal relationship since Earth people want to give and Metal people often feel they deserve the attention. It’s unlikely that Husband #2 had Earth as a secondary personality either since it wasn’t difficult for him to leave the relationship for his chosen work in Africa. Instead, I suspect he had Water as a secondary, another loner element. But more importantly, Earth and Water relate on the Controlling Cycle, so even though Earth’s version of control is very gentle, it can still feel “containing” to Water, which wants to go with the flow no matter where the flow goes.

Interestingly, your third husband was also probably a primary Water personality; creativity and imagination sit in the Water element. Your Earth personality could have felt supportive and stabilizing to him, but it also might have felt slightly controlling, especially if your Earth was out of balance. It’s likely you desperately wanted this third marriage to work, so could have tried harder to please him than necessary, or wise. Too much Earth energy usually feels cloying and restrictive to Water people. Also, artists often find their “muse” in someone radically different from them. In this case, I suspect his muse was a Fire person, the yang to his yin, the light to his dark. This opposing energy could hold them together, or they might tire of the differences and separate. But if this happens, please don’t go back with him; he has clearly proven he is not the right person for you.

Instead, try to hang around people who are Earth or Fire personalities. Another Earth person will value home and family as much as you do. In fact, two Earth people together usually live for home and family. But they need to be careful to stay balanced and not give everything to the other person or they risk falling into co-dependency. However, should you fall in love with an Earth, if you stay balanced and present with each other, you will probably feel like you have finally found heaven.

Fire is another element that could work well for you. Fire people like connections just as much as Earth people do, and since Fire feeds Earth on the Nurturing Cycle, you will feel seen and appreciated in an Earth/Fire connection. You will also have a great deal of fun. That said, most Fire people don’t value long term connections as much as Earth people do, nor do they like to stay home as much as Earth people tend to. But if you are up for having parties at home and going out a lot, you could find a relationship with a Fire person to be enjoyable and satisfying. Especially if that Fire has Earth as a secondary.

The truth is that you will probably find lasting happiness in a relationship with anyone who has Earth as a primary or strong secondary personality. To meet Earth people, get out and do the things you enjoy because other Earth people will enjoy them, too! You might try a series of cooking classes or perhaps a course on home decorating. If you aren’t doing this already, I encourage you to volunteer for causes that matter to you because many of the people there will also have Earth personalities. And let your friends know you’re interested in dating teachers, people in the healthcare field, and social workers. These are all areas often filled by Earth personalities. Most importantly, give it time and be yourself. Your Earth personality will attract someone who values what you value, I promise. I wish you all the best and may cupid find you soon!

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